Late in April I had the privilege of delivering the keynote address at the 10th Annual Symposium of the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art, or CASETA. This association of collectors, dealers, and scholars has passionately devoted a decade to expanding the understanding of Texas art and art history, focusing on the state’s tremendous regional artistic impact since the late nineteenth century. In the short time that I have been a resident of Texas, I have been impressed with the many discoveries and untold stories of artists as wide ranging as Frank Reagh and Everett Spruce.
The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is an institution committed to the story of American art and visual culture, and we want to understand the “regional” in relationship to our larger national story. As we continue to develop plans for the growth of the collection, that relationship—the regional to the national—is vital. I can imagine the day when works by Reagh and Spruce hang beside paintings by George Inness and Grant Wood. Expanding the canon of art in this way inevitably involves the community of collectors of early Texas art.
But how to get started in this partnership, keeping in mind the breadth and quality of this region’s early Texas art? At the Amon Carter we are initiating a plan to educate ourselves and to build those relationships within the community through small exhibitions in our galleries of loaned works that we find to be the strongest art in private collections. Our quest is for the best representation of artists—those who made a significant contribution to the nation’s art history. In other words, we are aiming to find the line where, for us in this great state, the regional becomes national.
This direction involves both an expanding vision and an invitation: the museum’s vision to help elevate the high-quality regional art of the state, and an invitation to such artwork’s collectors. Questions will arise, some challenging, as we expand our collecting vision in this way. Our hope is that collectors will find the Amon Carter a worthy partner in this exploration of Texas art. We recognize that the knowledge and passion, along with the works of art, reside with collectors who have already discovered and come to appreciate the value and beauty inherent in these works.
Our Conservator of Works on Paper Jodie Utter is a featured guest blogger for The Planetary Society! Check out her post to discover how scientific analysis of artworks using different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum informs understanding of how artists worked and how the appearance of their paintings has changed with time. Jodie's research and knowledge about Charles Russell's watercolor techniques and materials are also featured in a section of our current special exhibition Romance Maker: The Watercolors of Charles M. Russell. Congratulations, Jodie!
Our Excellence in Education Campaign continues to bloom with exciting results. The lunches and afternoon meetings have been happening at a brisk pace, and the development committee has been working overtime to help make the connections. Both Stacy Fuller, director of education, and Carol Noel, director of development, have helped to bring the importance of this campaign to our donors. Their passion and professionalism not only compel people to provide support but also clearly deliver our message of innovation, quality, and customer service that are so important to all that we do at the Amon Carter.
What will these funds do for our community?
For the past six years the Amon Carter has charged a nominal supply fee for teachers participating in its educator workshops. The campaign funds have already allowed the museum to offer, free of charge, all the educator programs held onsite and via videoconference in 2011–12. At a time of unparalleled and severe fiduciary constraints for state education, this service is indeed a boon to our community.
Similarly, the museum’s Teaching Resource Center (TRC) has offered North Texas educators the opportunity to borrow free resources on American art in a wide range of formats. The campaign has allowed the TRC to expand its loan program from North Texas to the entire state!
New programs made possible by the campaign are also underway, including the First Steps Outreach Program, which targets students ages three to five from seven Tarrant County day care centers. This multiple-visit program introduces these young visitors to a museum setting through positive experiences, cultivates their observation skills, and teaches Pre-K lessons, such as social behaviors and fine motor skills.
The Connect to American Art Outreach Program serves patrons from Tarrant County senior centers. This multiple-visit program sends docents to these centers for five visits, followed by bringing seniors three times annually to the museum. The program aims to generate awareness and ownership of the museum’s collection, exhibitions, and public programs. Programs are currently scheduled for senior centers in Stop Six, White Settlement, and Arlington.
I ask you to consider becoming a part of this effort. We have known for years now that exposure to the arts, particularly at a young age, results in an astonishing array of benefits that last a lifetime and benefit our community in return. If you would like to learn more, feel free to contact me. This message is one I have no problem discussing!
For the past few years the Paper Guild, one of the Amon Carter’s collector groups, has traveled to San Antonio to attend the annual print fair hosted there by the McNay Art Museum. We went there this past weekend, and in addition to attending the fair, we visited two remarkable private collections of American art. In the photograph below, we are getting a tour of one of America's most important collections of African-American art: the Harriet and Harmon Kelley collection. Some of you may remember that the museum featured their collection a few years ago. The Kelleys have searched high and low, with the help of curators, peers, and art dealers, for the best works that convey the creative achievements of artists of color.
Collecting art is at the core of what art museums do, and the collectors in any community are vital to that aspect of a museum’s mission. In this way, institutions and individual collectors are part of a symbiotic relationship. The Kelleys, for instance, not only have given important works to the San Antonio Museum of Art but also have inspired others within their community to begin collecting.
The collector groups at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art—the Paper Guild; the Council, which focuses on paintings and sculpture; and the Stieglitz Circle, which focuses on photographs—are filled with a similar spirit of mutual exchange. Trips such as last weekend’s sojourn to South Texas are a part of an education experience, where the example of others becomes a point of inspiration. If you would like to know more about becoming a member of one of these groups, please write to me. It is truly rewarding to participate.
Recent posts from the folks at Good have offered some great ideas for contributing your talents to your neighbors and the world. This post, which urges folks to create or appreciate art, really hit close to home. Readers who don't consider themselves artistic (like me) can find lots of options and ideas to get involved with art by just scrolling through the poll offered at the bottom. How considerate of them for putting the suggestion to visit a museum or gallery at the top of the list! I'm heading up to galleries to look at this lovely work right now.
Alexander Stirling Calder (1870–1945)
An American Stoic, 1912
A week ago, the Amon Carter opened a major exhibition focusing on Charles Russell’s watercolors. As one visitor to the show related to me, “I have been a fan of Russell for many years but never realized that he painted so many watercolors.” Part of the strength of this exhibition is that it brings together nearly 100 of the artist’s works in the medium, providing a comprehensive view of Russell’s subject matter and technical progression.
There is also power in more intimate, focused art exhibitions. In two weeks, we will be opening an exhibition on John Singer Sargent that includes just four works, all on loan from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. In the midst of a historic renovation and expansion, the Clark has generously loaned masterworks from their collection to institutions around the world—including our neighbor the Kimbell Art Museum, which will host a concurrent exhibition of the Clark’s holdings entitled The Age of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Clark.
John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), Fumée d'Ambre Gris (Smoke of Ambergris), 1880, oil on canvas, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA, image © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA, 1955.15
The Amon Carter’s dossier exhibition, Sargent’s Youthful Genius: Paintings from the Clark, centers on the artist’s Fumee d’Ambre Gris (Smoke of Ambregris). Painted in 1880, the iconic work not only evokes an exotic mystery but shows Sargent’s capacity for immense subtlety as a painter. A study in whites and creams, the painting is, as the artist himself said, about color. The volumes it speaks on the subject are a distinct pleasure to behold. The exhibition opens March 11—don’t miss it.
I have fallen a week behind! Last week was the meeting of our museum’s board of trustees, so perhaps that explains why.
Our most recent acquisitions were presented during that board meeting. One notable addition to the museum’s collection is Larry Sultan’s large-scale photograph Novato, from his series Homeland, which focused on the landscape near his home in Corte Madera, California.
Larry Sultan (1946–2009), Novato, 2009, dye coupler print, Purchase with funds provided by the Stieglitz Circle of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, courtesy of Estate of Larry Sultan/Wirtz Gallery
This important series was the last the artist completed before his untimely death in 2009 from cancer. Sultan hired day laborers to pose as actors in a semi-uncultivated landscape that abuts the edge of a housing community. The multiple layers of meaning in this work are riveting, but what struck me when I saw it in San Francisco for the first time was its pastoral qualities. It reminded me of another work in the Amon Carter’s collection: Thomas Cole’s The Hunter’s Return, painted in 1845.
Thomas Cole (1801–1848), The Hunter's Return, 1845, oil on canvas
The settled landscape emerging out of the “wilderness” in both works is one point of intersection, but I would be interested to know what you think. What points of similarity or difference do you see? Write me in the comments section, and I will respond. And if you would like to see the Sultan work, stay tuned. I will let you know in my next blog when the opportunity will be available to you.